Understanding Net Neutrality and what it means to gamers
Okay gamers, it's time to get serious. Our rights to a free internet are constantly coming under attack from large corporations, ISPs (internet service provider) lobbyists, and government officials that ask questions like, “can this computer run Google?” It's really scary. With the FCC recently changing stances and backing “Fast Lanes” in a new proposal to Net Neutrality, why should we as gamers and consumers of entertainment care? Well, because the proposed changes could lead to stifling of innovation, censorship of content with the application of fees and fast lanes that can be bought, and services being discriminated against.
This could affect services you use every day, such as Xbox Live, Netflix, streaming content, and p*rn – because we know what you'd all do without your p*rn. I have a basic understanding of Net Neutrality, but where I struggle with it is explaining it to others. Luckily, there's smarter people out there (shocking, right?) that do a better job of doing so.
In an AMA that took place on Reddit yesterday, Josh Levy from the Free Press, David Segal from Demand Progress, Amalia Deloney of Center for Media Justice, First Amendment lawyer Marvin Ammori, and Sarah Morris of Open Technology Institute answered any questions about Net Neutrality and what you could do to help the movement. (To learn the history of Net Neutrality, click this link)
First off, you may be confused as to what Net Neutrality is. Josh Levy was asked to explain Net Neutrality, and answered by saying, “Net Neutrality is the simple concept that we should be able to freely access any content or service on the Internet without any gatekeepers (companies or governments) slowing things down, blocking access, or prioritizing one site or service over another.” One example given by /u/losian compares the internet to a microwave. He says:
Say you bought a microwave of a certain brand, it happens to be made by a company that also sells microwavable food products. If you want to microwave another brand's food, you have to pay, otherwise it takes longer, or burns the shit out of your food, or undercooks it.
Logically, you bought the microwave, it should perform its task, period. Whatever you put in it should not matter, it is yours to do with as you wish. The company could also force competitors to pay them so as to not f*ck up your food – it opens the door to a lot of shady bullsh*t, in essence, if we don't have net neutrality.
It's really the gist of it – should your ISP be able to nitpick what you access and how fast you access it based on what it is. If it's netflix they slow it down, unless Netflix pays them X extra. Is it another cable company's on demand service? Oops, slowed to a crawl, doesn't work. Imagine that. But you can use their sh*ttier service for a low low fee, imagine that!
Josh Levy added in, “Yes, Now imagine that this microwave is... the foremost communications technology of our time.”
Another example given on what could happen if the FCC allows this is that the internet will become like cable subscriptions, where an ISP will be able to divide their service into packages and give you access to extra websites or more content for higher-priced packages. Right now the rules are just a proposal, but without an uproar from people, it could easily happen.
Image for Reddit AMA, created years ago
Another problem is the merger of Time Warner Cable and Comcast, which is terrible for consumers. Josh Levy commented on the matter and said that “It would give Comcast control of 2/3 of the US cable market and give it every incentive to raise prices and keep on providing crappy service. And without Net Neutrality rules, you could start seeing it degrading competitors' services in favor of its own.” For more information on how bad this merger would be, learn more in this Freepress.net article.
Yet another issue with this FCC change and Fast Lanes is that you can't really speed up traffic, but you can slow down other traffic. /u/SrSkippy commented on the thread saying that “if you allow those who can afford it to buy the faster service to consumers, you box out new sites from the market. It impedes innovation.
“If this had existed 10 years ago, we'd all be stuck on MySpace, we'd have to use CNN's comment section instead of reddit, the big movie studios could buy into the preferred fast lane and box out Netflix, we'd be stuck with Blockbuster. The services we'd get are not the best, but the ones with the richest backers... and once this is allowed, it's only a matter of time before the ISP is giving exclusive fast lane deals to one specific content provider.”
This is just the tip of the iceberg of knowledge and understanding of Net Neutrality. There's so much more to it because it is such an important matter. I highly suggest you read the AMA on Reddit. So what can you as a consumer do? I would visit http://www.savetheinternet.com/sti-home, which breaks down multiple actions you can take. There are also petitions on change.org and whitehouse.gov that you can sign.